Pinterest is now helping you find the words to describe a picture you discover. The online photo-sharing startup updated its system with a "virtual search tool" that allows users to scan for related photos with parts of other photos, rather than by typing words in a search bar.
The new technology, made available Monday on the Pinterest site and mobile apps, is accessible via a magnifying glass in the upper corner of any pin. By clicking on that button, users unlock a tool for drawing a box over any part of an image. The site will then scan Pinterest's database for any "visually similar results" of that cut-out that could lead to a direct purchasing option.
"Sometimes you spot something you really love on Pinterest, but you don’t know how to find it in real life, or what it’s even called. There’s that perfect lamp hiding in a Pin of someone’s living room, or maybe a random street style shot with the exact shoes you’re looking for," a blog post by Kevin Jing, Pinterest's engineering manager, reads.
Pinterest's update follows in the company's quest to be seen not as a social network -- like Facebook or Twitter -- but rather a "catalog of ideas," as Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann told Fortune in July. “Our hope is that when we show you the right idea, you go out and do that thing,” he said.
A Shopping Frenzy
The update aligns with Pinterest building out its capabilities as a discovery engine not unlike Google, under Alphabet Inc. Over 50 billion images have been posted on the site since the company launched in 2010. So far, Pinterest has indexed about one billion of those pins and said they hope to add all of them, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Pinterest has also developed into more of a shopping site. For instance, in June the site added a "buy" button that allows Pinterest users to purchase items directly on the site instead of being sent to third parties. Pinterest does not take a revenue cut, yet, but instead charges for promoted pins -- advertisements that can target a user based on their interests, locations or searches. Pinterest boasts about 100 million active users.
Pinterest faces competition for e-commerce dominance as social networking giants as well as Google and Amazon continue amassing active users and building out their technology. Facebook and Twitter have both been experimenting with "buy" buttons and shopping pages. Shopping apps, like Poshmark and Yahoo's Polyvore, have also garnered loyal users.